Wayne Rooney believes England will benefit from his recent injury problems as he will be revitalised for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
Rooney gave the nation a fright when he missed Manchester United's victory over Tottenham on Saturday because of groin damage sustained in training. The 24-year-old had just returned from an ankle problem that forced him to miss two matches and England coach Fabio Capello can ill-afford any further setbacks to his most influential player.
The 9 May English Premier League clash with Stoke has been set as the return date for the newly-crowned Professional Footballers' Association player of the year. "I'm pleased to have done well in a World Cup year but it's been a difficult last couple of months injury-wise," said Rooney. "I'm disappointed to have missed a couple of games over the last few weeks.
No one likes watching football if you're a player, it's difficult knowing you can't influence the game. It's frustrating.
"No one likes watching football if you're a player, it's difficult knowing you can't influence the game. It's frustrating," he went on. "But if there's any consolation I'll probably be fresher for the World Cup, which will be good for me."
Rooney's outstanding form this season ensures he carries the nation's hopes in South Africa, but he insists England are not a one-man team and that they are capable of winning the tournament. "We have a lot of world-class players in the team and a great manager," he said. "If I get injured then so be it, there are other players there to do the job.
"There's a lot of hype but that's something you must live with," Rooney added. "Success in South Africa would be to win the trophy. We've definitely got a good enough squad to do that. In the qualifying games we played extremely well and were disappointed to not win all the games. We'll prepare well for the finals and hopefully we can bring the trophy back home."
On the domestic front, Rooney hopes to help United claim a fourth successive Premier League crown before jetting off for South Africa. Chelsea sit one-point clear at the top of the table with two matches remaining and on paper they have the trickier run in with fixtures against Liverpool and Wigan to come.
The fate of the title race remains in their hands but Rooney insists United must be ready to pounce should they falter. "I'm enjoying the title race. We need Chelsea to slip up now so hopefully Liverpool or Wigan can do us a favour," he said. "Liverpool are a proud club with a lot of history and I'm sure they'll want to win that game as they're fighting for the Europa League. We just have to try and win our last two games. If Liverpool or Wigan can help us out we'll be happy."
Ryan Giggs took over the penalty-taking duties for Saturday's 3-1 victory over Spurs, converting twice from the spot, but Rooney will resume the responsibility upon his comeback. "No I don't think I've lost the penalty-taker's job - Giggsy scored two great pens but I'll be back on it when I get back!" he said.